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The Impact of Electricity on Wound Care

The Impact of Electricity on Wound Care

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The “electroceutical” industry is growing rapidly.

This is an exciting time in wound research with the growing “electroceutical” industry. Every day there is more research being done and more articles are being written about the potential of electrical stimulation to treat all kinds of human ailments, from heart conditions and diabetic sores to paralysis and arthritis. These devices are thought to be free of side effects and safer than the average medication, due to the the fact that they directly target the problem area rather than release chemicals in the body. 

According to Wounds International, when it comes to wound care, electrical stimulation has plenty of benefits. It increases fibroblast production and cell migration, speeds up the development of new blood vessels and decreases bacterial burden on the wound. There is still plenty of research being done before electrical stimulation becomes a regular treatment in chronic wound care. Scientists are working to find out which types of wounds respond best to it.

What other kinds of ills can electroceuticals potentially treat?

  • A device the size of a key ring that emits small electrical pulses to treat venous ulcers is currently available in England. This device is worn like a bandage underneath a compression bandage and emits electrical pulses regularly for 48 hours at a time. This is a great breakthrough in diabetic treatment, because chronic ulcers are such a large issue for people with diabetes. Though compression bandages work wonders in restoring blood flow in diabetic ulcers, this method could speed up the process of healing.
  • The Boston Globe recently reported about a study at the University of Pittsburgh in which 20 patients with overactive bladder syndrome who had reduced symptoms within the week after having electrodes stuck to the soles of their feet for three hours every evening.
  • Researchers at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency have connected an electrical prosthetic hand directly to the brain of a 28-year old man who’s been paralyzed for over ten years. He was able to sense physical sensations and move his hand.

These advancements have been made recently, since electrical stimulation was found to speed up wound healing by researchers at the University of Manchester. They found this by inflicting two identical wounds on each arm of each participant and leaving one to heal normally while administering tiny electrical shocks to the other wound. They found that the wound that was shocked regularly healed much faster than the one left to heal on its own.

The team that conducted that research now has a partnership with Oxford BioElectronics and are working on a five-year project to develop similar technology to use in real-world clinical practices.

“Although electrical stimulation may appear to many of us as the ‘new kid on the block,’ it is a technology that has significant research underpinning it that we should all be aware of,” said Keith Harding, Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine and Wound Healing, in Wounds International. “We should also be prepared to keep our minds open and review our current practice, while considering using this technology in managing patients with hard-to-heal complex wounds.”

While the science behind electroceuticals is still unproven, there’s more research being done every day.

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